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Digital Subscriptions > COINage > December 2018 > MEDALLIC ART FOR THE HOLIDAYS

MEDALLIC ART FOR THE HOLIDAYS

MEDALS ARE MAGNIFICIENT MARKERS OF THE SEASON

This the season to collect medals. Coin and medal collectors in the modern world and those who appreciate sculptural art often turn to numismatics to find metallic remembrances of the great annual celebration of the Christmas holiday season. Although historians assert that the birth of Jesus probably took place in the Spring, early church fathers relocated celebration of the anniversary to compete with pagan winter solstice saturnalia.

Set on December 25 in the western Gregorian calendar or at a different date late in the year by the Orthodox Julian calendar, Christmas has for millennia been one of the key dates in all Christian churches. Marking the birth of Him whom they venerate as messiah and redeemer of mankind. Following the Reformation in England, the Puritans rigorously outlawed all Christmas observances, triggering H.L. Mencken’s definition of Puritanism as being based on a nagging fear that somebody, somewhere, was enjoying himself.

PHOTOS COURTESY PATRICIA ALEXANDER.

Above: The last medallic work to come from the Society of Medalists is this Last Supper bronze plaquette, which was issued in 1995.

While the primary religious motivation remains strong for hundreds of millions of Christians today, the modern world has seen the spread of purely secular festivities celebrating the date. An outstanding example has been post-World War II Japan, where celebration, and above all Christmas shopping have become bold annual features in a primarily Shinto and Buddhist nation. Indeed, it may be said that for great numbers of Americans and Europeans, the feast day is now celebrated largely as a shopping and partying event.

PHOTOS COURTESY PATRICIA ALEXANDER.
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